The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening (Nintendo Switch) Review

By Drew Hurley 20.09.2019

Review for The Legend of Zelda: Link

Whilst A Link to the Past, Ocarina of Time, and Majora's Mask usually top the lists of fan's "Best Zelda Game" - and indeed best game of all time lists too - Zelda connoisseurs know there are many others that deserve to stand next to these gaming darlings. Especially Link's Awakening. For many, this will always have a special place in their heart, sitting with the original Game Boy in hand for hours upon end, embarking on a quest to awaken the Windfish. Now Nintendo is bringing that beloved classic back, reborn for the Switch.

The timeline of Zelda games has long been a source of discussion between the hardcore fans, and while this was widely seen as a follow-up to A Link to the Past, especially since it came out so soon after, the release of Hyrule Historia a few years ago finally settled those old arguments. Confirming its place as following A Link to the Past. So! The story follows on after Link has stopped Ganon, collected the Triforce, and restored the Dark World. Apparently, he then decided to pop out for a bit of sailing.

During his cruise, a huge storm hammers his ship into oblivion. One small shipwreck later, and the Hero of Time is washed up on a sunny little beach upon the little Koholint Island, where his prone form is saved by a beautiful young girl with a penchant for singing. He certainly has a type. As this young lady nudges at his unconscious body, the opening video pans back from Link to show a towering mountain at the top of the island. At its peak seems to loom a gargantuan egg. Within it the WindfIsh slumbers, should it awaken, certain doom will come for Koholint. Yet, that seems to be Link's destiny.

Screenshot for The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening on Nintendo Switch

The young lady who happened to find Link on the beach coincidentally bears a striking similarity to a certain princess of titular note - perhaps this instalment should have been called The Legend of Marin? Link is kitted out with his old Hyrulian shield by Marin and her housemate Tarin, then heads off to recover his sword from his soggy arrival site. Waiting for him at the sword is an Owl, an Owl that tells him the only way to get off the island is to wake the Windfish, the guardian of Koholint, and to do so, Link must gather up eight instruments of the Sirens from within dungeons scattered across the island.

Those dungeons are classic Zelda through and through. Each dungeon has a Map and Compass to find; there are locked doors with their respective keys; but, most importantly, each contains a key piece of equipment. These items are essential for overcoming the dungeon, and for progressing in the overworld itself - iconic items from the series history, like the Power Bracelet to lift heavy things, the Hookshot to zip across gaps, and explosive Bombs to blow gaps in walls. These dungeons are admittedly, some of the shortest and easiest of the series, however, they are masterfully designed, showing why this is such a classic. With each having a natural flow and momentum. They are hugely enjoyable experiences.

This was the first Zelda game to add some spring to Link's step as he learned how to jump when using the Roc's Feather. This added in some 2D scrolling elements to the dungeons, and, in a nice nod, Nintendo had a few surprise appearances. Link is soon jumping over Piranha plants popping of warp pipes, and stomping on Goomba heads. Outside of these 2D moments, other Nintendo mainstays pop in for a cameo throughout the game, from popular faces like Kirby, to little known characters like Richard from The Frog For Whom the Bell Tolls; a title that sadly was never released outside of Japan, but was actually the basis for the original Link's Awakening, including the same top-down and 2D scrolling perspective. It's a nice little addition.

Screenshot for The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening on Nintendo Switch

Like any good Zelda, there's more to this world than just the dungeons. Koholint has plenty of inhabitants with a laundry list of chores for Link to undertake. The main one of these is a huge trading quest, reminiscent of the "One Red Paperclip." Link starts out with a simple Yoshi plush toy, and has to trade this to get a Ribbon, trade the Ribbon for some Dog Food, and so on, and so on. At its conclusion, a book that is required to assist in the final dungeon. There are also 'Secret Seashells' to track down for extra items and plenty of hidden little side-quests to add extra lifespan to it all.

There are many changes to the original game, but the most evident is the art style. Making the jump from the original Gameboy to Switch is quite large, and the franchise has toyed with many styles over the years. From the cel-shaded cartoonish style of Windwaker, to the gritty dark nature of Twilight Princess, and, of course, the classic top-down that has become synonymous with the series' older entries. This reimagining takes that classic style, but overlays a completely new take. While the world and its inhabitants have been faithfully recreated, and in a stunning and deeply detailed way, the style has turned everything into something straight out of Funko HQ.

The characters all look like toys, with smooth, shiny textures, and cold dead eyes. It's a style that has been heavily criticised since it debuted, in a very similar way to Windwaker. It seems some Zelda fans can't get away from the serious anime style of entries like Breath of the Wild. But, just like with Windwaker, Link's Awakening style may take some getting used to, but it looks wonderful in action. Even for the most jaded of players should give this a chance, it deserves it. The rich, cartoonish, colourful world is an absolute joy to explore. Where the presentation does fall down, however, is in the performance. Running at a smooth 60fps occasionally, it has a habit of dropping dramatically in the larger areas of the open world.

Screenshot for The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening on Nintendo Switch

On top of the new graphical overhaul, there are some other extra little features, like the ability to mark the map for points of interest. Invaluable for marking where to return, when certain obstacles are no longer an issue. Koholint Island is almost entirely explorable from very early, and it's easy to see where a Roc Feather jump or Hookshot grapple are going to be required to progress. There are also some extra items like the series signature bottles for snagging fairies, there are many more extra Seashells to track down compared to the original, and houses now have little display stands to collect more plush dolls and display them. The biggest addition though is the new dungeon crafting "Chamber Maker" mode.

Few could have expected just how massively popular the Mario Maker series would turn out to be, and now Link's getting in on the action. Another new addition to this instalment sees Dampe the Gravekeeper set up shop just below the Windfish Egg, and offering Link a way to craft some dungeons of his very own. After completing a dungeon, every room within that dungeon is unlocked as a "chamber" to be used in this Chamber Maker. Dampe will then give a series of scenarios to build the dungeons around. It's pretty simple stuff, dungeons have to ensure there's always a start point and a boss, that every descending staircase has a corresponding ascending, and that there are enough keys available for each locked doors.

The issue with this new addition is that it doesn't add anything. The crafted dungeons being made up of existing rooms from previous dungeons give less of an "All-Star" experience, and more a "Been there, done that" one. They just feel dull after having already cleared them. This really deserved a huge host of customisable rooms with lots of features to make this interesting - the ability to go crazy with the designs, adding tons of enemies, or multiple bosses together, to add key puzzle elements in unique ways. Mario Maker showed how to do this right, and this shows how to do it completely wrong.

Screenshot for The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening on Nintendo Switch

Cubed3 Rating

Rated 9 out of 10

Exceptional - Gold Award

Rated 9 out of 10

The lead project manager of the Zelda franchise, Eiji Aonuma, has been with the series since Ocarina of Time, but he had no hand in the original Link's Awakening. However, he's said many times that it holds a special place in his heart. It's easy to see that this is true with this game, as he has given a rebirth to a classic. It's so easy to get transported back to the glory days of the Game Boy while stomping through the grass of Koholint, slashing through Moblins, dashing through slimes with the XBoots, taking the Bow Wow for a walk. All these memorable moments and elements are back and they're better than ever. For the new generation who never even held a Game Boy (or picked it up in Virtual Console), this is a chance to experience this gaming masterpiece in its best form to date.






Action Adventure



C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  9/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   


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